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Originally published November 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 18, 2008 at 1:17 PM

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Taliban rejects Pakistan's offer, threatens Paris strike

Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents rejected an offer of talks from Kabul on Monday and threatened for the first time to strike a target in the West, suggesting many years of violent conflict to come.

McClatchy Newspapers

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents rejected an offer of talks from Kabul on Monday and threatened for the first time to strike a target in the West, suggesting many years of violent conflict to come.

The United States also shot down the Afghan government proposal and said it wouldn't support such an initiative — worsening the strain in U.S.-Afghan relations. The major beneficiary of the dispute appears to be the Taliban, which said it wouldn't come to the negotiating table until all foreign troops left Afghanistan, as it vowed in a videotape to strike in Paris unless coalition member France withdraws its forces.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who launched the peace move, offered to hold direct negotiations with the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, and to guarantee him safe passage. On Sunday, Karzai challenged the U.S.-led international coalition to "remove me, or leave if they disagree."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack slapped down the idea Monday. "One can't imagine the circumstances where you have the senior leadership of the Taliban — that there would be any safe passage with respect to U.S. forces. Certainly, it's hard to imagine those circumstances standing here right now," McCormack said.

There have been no reported sightings of Omar, a close associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

But the deputy leader of the Taliban, Mullah Brother, scorned the proposal Monday.

U.S. authorities have put a $10 million bounty on Omar's head. When Omar's Taliban militia ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 until they were toppled in the U.S. invasion, they provided a sanctuary to bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders.

Most intelligence suggests that top Taliban leadership are based in and around the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta.

Also

A Pakistani official says a clash between Taliban militants and pro-government tribal elders has left at least five people dead. A Taliban commander was shot dead at a compound in Bajur and four elders died in an explosion at the compound, he said.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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